Eric German:T he whole problem started with living in shelters. I had my apartment; he didn’t. So I let him move in with me. But they told us in order for us to live together both receiving public assistance, we’d have to be on the same budget, and we’d have to be domestic partners.
Arthur Thomas: I was just coming from losing someone after 15 years. Eric has no family and I have no family, so he took care of me while I was in the hospital and we kind of bonded. So the domestic partnership thing is not something that I’m unhappy with, you understand. The case worker told us there’s no way HASA [the city’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration] is going to pay for boyfriends to live in the same apartment without being domestic partners–which our lawyer says is just unheard of. But it’s the criteria and I figured, Let’s just do it. He could have told me anything. After you’ve been beaten into submission, you just comply.
Eric: When we moved into a new apartment we couldn’t cook for three days ’cause the stove wasn’t working. We went to HASA to tell them we needed a restaurant allowance to be able to eat. They wanted to give us pamphlets to go to pantries in Brooklyn, and we were like, “We still can’t cook it. The stove is broken!”
Arthur: They’re always trying to cut corners. It’s stressful. I can show you a suitcase full of medications I’m taking now. I’m 16 years HIV positive and I never took medications until now. You figure everything will run smoothly if you do what is expected of you. But what happens if they fall short? “OK, we just have to stop this whole process here and start you on another train because we messed up,” they say, “and this worker won’t be in this week and you’ll have to deal with this one now and they don’t have the information so let’s do this again.” And it’s just constant, nerve-wracking.
On a whole other level, we’re getting to know each other. What you eat. What you like. When you shower. The little things. We open up everyday, a little more, and a little more, because we’re just pulling together.